We are in the middle of a pandemic. So, even though I’m not a “stop and smell the roses” kind of guy, what else do I have to do right now? We’ve already eaten two rounds of breakfast. One kid is 17 hours into a Fortnite/GTA/Call of Duty Xbox marathon and completely unaware of my existence. And the other kid is teaching herself how to use my circular saw unsupervised (relax, it’s a joke). Oh, and the dog: Officially done with walks.
So, I suppose this is as good a time as any to take stock and think about what I’ve learned these past four weeks. The answer is a lot. It’s not all novel but it’s revelatory to me and this is my blog post, so…
Here we go.
1. Nothing really matters.
Okay, not exactly nothing, but the things that consumed me “before” just don’t anymore. Like, the aforementioned Xbox. Eli loves it. It’s how he communicates with friends, school friends, camp friends and friends of friends. They gig each other, help each other, he laughs a lot. It’s not turning him into a deranged loner trench-coat wearing murderer because he shoots a fake gun in a fantasy world. He’s a happy kid whose grades are great and interests are varied. And he’ll turn it off if I ask him to. But most importantly he has two parents who are involved in his life, who care about the kid he’ll become and who help guide him. Xbox is not going to turn him into something he’s not. So, if this is how he chooses to spend a (large) portion of his pandemic free time, I’m cool with it (but Eli if you’re reading this…)
2. Work is important to me.
This is not new, but a good reminder. I’ve always known that part of my identity is wrapped up in what I do. That may not be healthy, but it’s part of who I am and at age 49 it’s not likely to change. I learned long ago to not look for personal fulfillment in a job; there are only so many jobs where you get to save the world and most don’t pay well. So, the fulfillment I look for and often get is intellectual—my work is challenging, my clients are demanding but gracious. I get to lead a large team of people from around the world who look to me for leadership and guidance and that moves me to work hard for them. This event brings all of that into sharp focus. My job gives me direction and purpose, and even though I’m not saving the world, what I do counts. And, as people are losing their jobs or being furloughed in every industry, I’m lucky to still be garnering a paycheck. Plus, it’s been a welcome distraction from all the awfulness and an excuse why I can’t cook Sadie scrambled eggs every two hours when she asks.
3. Personal connections over tasks any day.
I’ve used this time to reconnect with friends who I never seem to have time to text or call, and family who often takes a back-burner to my parental or work duties: conference calls, carpools, homework taskmaster, laundry folder, kitchen cleaner, dog feeder, etc., etc., etc. Yes, we’re all SOOOOO BUSY. But guess what? None of this shit really matters. My kitchen will get cleaned. My kids will do their homework on their own. Dinner will get made–or, more likely, ordered in.
What matters is that yesterday, Eli, Sadie and I all painted pictures outside, something I haven’t done since I was in elementary school. We’ve made whipped coffee, vanilla-bean milk-shakes, batches upon batches of blondies, and schnitzel. We’re growing indoor herbs (no, not that kind), doing family Tik-Toks, we’re laughing a lot—most of the time at my expense. My kids have seen a different side of me—less grumpy and serious, less stressed about how to fit in a Peloton workout in between making dinner, taking Sadie to dance and Eli to wrestling.
This is how I hope they’ll remember this time, our time together inside; not the awfulness outside. Because my job is to make them feel safe and that means that in spite of all the misery, this has been a success.
But seriously, if summer camp gets canceled, then fuck all this shit.